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I would like to call for a place to list some little things that surprise you about Lion. There are so many articles and lists of all the new features with information overload, I would rather focus this spot of the site on tiny delights with a note why it makes a difference to you.

Please one topic per answer, this isn't a race to enumerate everything that changed. This isn't the place for massive topics like the implications of FileVault 2 on your entire workflow - just a stroll past some little gems, fun oddities or subtle changes specific to Lion.

Answers must relate to why or how you use the feature - links to official tips and tutorials are great, but the intent is to collect little gems that affect how the system gets used. Expect answers that are not specific to lion or lack a personal use case to be heavily edited or deleted.

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I can't wait until someone wrote "Natural scrolling" as one of the answers... – Enrico Susatyo Jul 22 '11 at 13:03
@the_great_monkey I will admit to being totally comfortable with "natural scrolling", and I've only been using Lion since Friday. – CajunLuke Jul 25 '11 at 19:03
@CajunLuke me too, only took me 15 minutes to get used to. – Enrico Susatyo Jul 26 '11 at 0:06
Natural Scrolling only makes real sense if you use a trackpad, if you try that with a scroll wheel, it drives you nuts :) – Martín Marconcini Jul 29 '11 at 11:38
I'm especially happy about the price of Lion ($29.99 upgrade from SnowLeopard), but this isn't worth putting as an answer. – bneely Feb 8 '12 at 5:42

107 Answers 107

Incremental backup with FileVault and TimeMachine

FileVault no longer cripples Time Machine.

Your data gets backed up whether you are logged in or not and the speed of the backups is much improved over Snow Leopard.

You incremental backups of the encrypted bundle took much longer than incremental backups of actual files. Coupled with the delay in backing up changes until a reboot or log out, this delayed the writes and let the backup drive's speed be a bottleneck.

With the new FileVault, they just work nicely together - incremental, background, unnoticed and up-to-date.

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A huge improvement in usability - great call out! – bmike Jul 31 '11 at 22:32 links to an overview (work in progress, begun before I joined Ask Different) with this opening statement: Do not rush to abandon FileVault 1-secured home directories (Snow Leopard) in favour of Core Storage FileVault 2 (Lion). If you have any questions concerning what's there — in particular, how to backup FileVault 1 home directories using Time Machine without logging out — I'd now love to be amongst those answering in Ask Different! – Graham Perrin Aug 2 '11 at 16:43

More International Localizations for system Text to Speech

The new text to speech voices included in Lion (or downloadable, post-install) are now no longer US English only - but with many diverse variants of English, and select other foreign languages - e.g. Swedish.

This is helpful for learning foreign languages, in combination with the "say" command, for example.

Built-in voices VoiceOver in OS X Lion includes built-in voices that speak 22 languages: Arabic, English, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Portugal), Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian, Spanish (Spain), Swedish, Turkish, Cantonese, Mandarin (China), and Mandarin (Taiwan). In addition, other languages are available for downloads including Greek, Hindi, Indonesian, Romanian, Slovak, and Thai, as well as alternative voices with different dialects such as English (UK), English (Australia), English (South Africa), and Spanish (Mexico).

High-quality voices In addition to the built-in voices in Lion, you can download higher-quality versions of the languages from VoiceOver Utility. Choose Customize from the Voice pop-up menu in the Speech pane.

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This is awesome! – Herr Aug 29 '11 at 6:32

Autocorrect services from the system

I am happy to see that one of the most helpful-yet-annoying features of iOS has made it into Lion - Autocorrect. Seeing the little pop-up with the suggestion and then seeing my spelling error automatically corrected made me smile. (I'll have to play with it a bit more to figure out exactly how to see other suggestions and cancel an incorrect one, but this is a great feature in the right context.)

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do you know how to disable it in safari? – Enrico Susatyo Jul 22 '11 at 13:41
I checked Safari preference but couldn't find anything. A quick google search though, led me to this. – Moshe Jul 22 '11 at 13:52
Ok I got it – i want it in some apps, but not safari. The day to do it is to click on any text box in safari (like this one), and the right click, then spelling and grammar -> untick correct automatically. :) – Enrico Susatyo Jul 22 '11 at 13:56
You mean the "way to do it", not the "day to do it", yes? ;-) – Moshe Jul 22 '11 at 14:13
How do you enable this? I love apples autocorrect, it completely removed the need for English teachers moaning about spelling. – Jonathan. Jul 24 '11 at 1:46

Spell check service is aware of a document's language

The spell checker auto detects what language you're writing it and switches to the correct dictionary!

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I think this worked in Snow Leopard too... And it rocks! – reg Aug 9 '11 at 19:18

Photo Booth now has an option to disable screen flash

Before you could suppress the screen flash by holding Shift but I don't recall there being a persistent option. For those of us with glasses who are sick of taking pictures that look like we're witnessing nuclear weapons testing, this is a welcome feature.

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Finder: select items & create a new folder containing them.

Upon having the thought to organize some documents, the workflow is much accelerated. Simply select the items, activate the service to make a new folder and then rename the new folder.

This is so much better than the old, interrupt your thought to make a new folder, find it (if you sort by name), rename it, go back and select the files, and drag it to the new folder.

As a bonus, Undo support (Command-Z) of the "New folder from selection" has a very cool animation like the drag flocking. I spent 10 or 15 minutes just "New folder from selection", command Z, shift command Z.

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Mission Control supports unique backgrounds per space

The ability to have different desktop backgrounds in different spaces. Set the background, add a space, then set a new background in that space. Not sure if it is a bug or a feature, because it doesn't specify that it is for that space only. When you change it, it changes your default, but not backgrounds on existing spaces. enter image description here

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It is the feature not bug. But I don't see the reason why don't they mention space/desktop name while changing. – palaniraja Aug 9 '11 at 18:24

external keyboard F1/F2 control brightness

Pressing F1 or F2 keys on an external keyboard will brighten or dim the display.

Previously those keys does nothing. This was very un-handy having to reach up to the laptop keyboard to dim its screen.

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Previously this was on F14/F15 if I remember correctly. – MacLemon Aug 1 '11 at 12:38
@MacLemon Oh really? My keyboard only goes up to F12 :( shame on apple for not selling full sized keyboards anymore. (Anyway, the F1/F2 keys have the brigthness logo on there!) – Enrico Susatyo Aug 1 '11 at 13:29
I run Snow Leopard 10.6.7 and my F1/F2 keys on the usb keyboard brighten and dim my display. – atroon Aug 2 '11 at 12:56
If the brightness symbols are already printed on keys, then those keys will usually work that way. F14/F15 will work on other (full sized) keyboards without printed brightness keys. (Like the Apple Pro Keyboard I just tested on Lion and I can confirm this still works.) – MacLemon Aug 2 '11 at 14:03
it worked on imacs in SL, doesn't work if you plug it into laptops in SL. In Lion it works in both imac and macbooks. – Enrico Susatyo Aug 2 '11 at 14:21

Automator can send a URL to Quick Look rather than a browser.

With automator, you can now make a website open as a web app. You just have to make Automator open a URL as a “Website Popup”. Very nice unadvertised feature.

Andy Ihnatko explains it well - you can make a minimalistic desktop web app with ease.

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Where from Apple can I get the Website Popup action for Automator? (When I used Automator in Lion, the action described by Andy Ihnatko was not available.) – Graham Perrin Aug 8 '11 at 9:45

Unsupported hardware notices

This caught me off guard, but it did not make me smile:

enter image description here

The icon in System Preferences has also been renamed from "Print & Fax" to "Print & Scan".

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Wi-Fi Diagnostics are pretty and useful

Option-click the Wi-Fi status menu to reveal options such as Wi-Fi Diagnostics …

Wi-Fi Diagnostics

It's very good for monitoring and testing wireless networks.

If you prefer to not show Wi-Fi status in the menu bar, then to find the app:

  1. Finder
  2. Go
  3. /System/Library/CoreServices
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Motion Blur in Mission Control

While Mission Control is open, press +M to enable a motion blur effect.

You can see the effect when application windows gather/disperse to/from Mission Control and, also, when changing desktops (in Mission Control).

To disable it, press +M again.

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I don't see this in 10.7.3 – gentmatt Apr 2 '12 at 14:49
I concur, seems to be gone, or they've changed the shortcut. – scottishwildcat Apr 2 '12 at 21:52 now supports 256 colors.

You can test this yourself by running the “Colortest: xterm 256 color test and visual colors list” script.

Before (screenshot taken under OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard):

After (screenshot taken under OS X 10.7 Lion):

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Launchpad Background Wallpaper Effects

Being able to change the Launchpad background effect with Control + Option + Command + B in 10.7.3 and 10.8, or + B, is pretty cool. You can make any Desktop Wallpaper black and white, blurred, sharp, color, or any combination of those. It only is capable of using your current desktop's wallpaper however, unless any of you know how to specify a different wallpaper just for Launchpad. It's really a nice customization option!

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In 10.7.3, this has changed to Control+Option+Command+B. (via…) – program247365 Sep 14 '12 at 2:55
Command-B doesn't work for me in 10.8, but control-option-command-B does. Great find! – daGUY Mar 5 '13 at 14:15

Native support for Microsoft DFS

We use Microsoft Distributed File System (DFS) at work and for years mounting Windows shares has always been a headache because of DFS. With Lion, DFS works like a charm, no more 50 individual mounts now its just smb://server/dfsroot

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Wireless Internet Sharing supports 5Ghz channels (802.11n)

I use an old Mac Mini in my bedroom as a media center, and have used OS X's built-in Internet Sharing to make it act as a wireless access point and share the ethernet connection.

Up to Snow Leopard, it only supported sharing on the 2.4Ghz frequency, which in my neighborhood is so congested as to be nearly useless. But in Lion there are four 5Ghz frequencies available to share on.

Now if they'd only allow better wireless security than WEP-128, it'd be perfect!

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The fact that there is still 40-bit WEP as an option proves that Apple doesn't take security seriously. – Kornel Aug 7 '11 at 16:26

Rich Text welcome banners for labs or corporate settings

I have to manage Macs at work, and it has always been a challenge to have an acceptable use login banner for people to agree to before logging in. Either editing .plist files, or downloading 3rd-party software was required. However, now Lion lets you put a text or rich-text file in /Library/Security and it will show up at login. Apple even puts a little example for you on this webpage

This is a very welcome development!

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And it has Comic Sans on it. What a travesty. – Jason Salaz Feb 3 '13 at 11:03

Calculate all sizes in Finder is ridiculously fast now

I've always avoided using the Calculate all sizes option.

( + J ) It made Finder run so slowly in the past.

enter image description here

It runs now like butter on a hot skillet.

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Mutitouch Page Turning in iCal

You can move between months in iCal with a 2 finger drag - it has the same page turning animation as iBooks on iPad.

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Quick Look to Track Shipments from within

I love the ability to track shipments straight from without going to a browser...opens it right there in the thread for you with a neat little window (assuming the tracking number doesn't have a crazy format)... :-)

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QuickLook in Mission Control

When in Mission Control, you can invoke Quicklook on a certain window that your cursor hovers by pressing space.

enter image description here

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This is not new in Lion — Exposé in Snow Leopard had the same behavior. – Mathias Bynens Apr 2 '12 at 15:02
@MathiasBynens Really? I did not know that. Thanks! – gentmatt Apr 2 '12 at 15:06
In Snow Leopard, once you hit space, you could mouse around and it would zoom whatever window your cursor was over. In Lion, this no longer happens. I can't decide if I prefer this or not... – daGUY May 16 '12 at 15:42

Lion allows you to create user names containing dots.

The lack of this frustrated standardisation with our corporate networks back in Leopard. Now I have the same user name over Mac, Windows and Unix.

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OS X Lion comes with Vim 7.3 installed.

Older OS X versions had Vim 7.2.

$ vim --version
VIM - Vi IMproved 7.3 (2010 Aug 15, compiled Jun 24 2011 20:00:09)
Compiled by
Normal version without GUI.  Features included (+) or not (-):
-arabic +autocmd -balloon_eval -browse +builtin_terms +byte_offset +cindent 
-clientserver -clipboard +cmdline_compl +cmdline_hist +cmdline_info +comments 
-conceal +cryptv +cscope +cursorbind +cursorshape +dialog_con +diff +digraphs 
-dnd -ebcdic -emacs_tags +eval +ex_extra +extra_search -farsi +file_in_path 
+find_in_path +float +folding -footer +fork() -gettext -hangul_input +iconv 
+insert_expand +jumplist -keymap -langmap +libcall +linebreak +lispindent 
+listcmds +localmap -lua +menu +mksession +modify_fname +mouse -mouseshape 
-mouse_dec -mouse_gpm -mouse_jsbterm -mouse_netterm -mouse_sysmouse 
+mouse_xterm +multi_byte +multi_lang -mzscheme +netbeans_intg -osfiletype 
+path_extra -perl +persistent_undo +postscript +printer -profile -python 
-python3 +quickfix +reltime -rightleft -ruby +scrollbind +signs +smartindent 
-sniff +startuptime +statusline -sun_workshop +syntax +tag_binary 
+tag_old_static -tag_any_white -tcl +terminfo +termresponse +textobjects +title
 -toolbar +user_commands +vertsplit +virtualedit +visual +visualextra +viminfo 
+vreplace +wildignore +wildmenu +windows +writebackup -X11 -xfontset -xim -xsmp
 -xterm_clipboard -xterm_save 
   system vimrc file: "$VIM/vimrc"
     user vimrc file: "$HOME/.vimrc"
      user exrc file: "$HOME/.exrc"
  fall-back for $VIM: "/usr/share/vim"
Compilation: gcc -c -I. -D_FORTIFY_SOURCE=0 -Iproto -DHAVE_CONFIG_H -arch i386 -arch x86_64 -g -Os -pipe
Linking: gcc -arch i386 -arch x86_64 -o vim -lncurses

(That “Compiled by” line looks awesome.)

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

I found that iCal allows you to drag an event (so you can open another one).

Click on any event to get the popup:

enter image description here

Then click on the areas in the green boxes of that popup and drag until it transforms into some sort of "palette".

The truth is that you can drag from any gray piece, but if the popup has a scroll area (because it's too large) then dragging from the scrollable area may not work. Try creating an event and adding a very large note to see the difference.

Once you drag it, it will look like this, so you can click another event and do the same, and you can have as many as you can pile :)

enter image description here

Sorry about the blurring on the images, but there were names there ;)

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The Zoom ⊕ button will attempt to maximize

The Zoom button on the windows behaves more like Maximize on Windows OS rather than the old behavior where it usually made the window smaller (or the alternate saved/previous size). Be sure to experiment with the shift key when using the Lion controls.

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The Zoom button has been around for a long time. Has it changed its behavior or something? – Chas. Owens Jul 23 '11 at 19:53
@Chas Maybe its called something else. This is what I am referring to: and – AngryHacker Jul 23 '11 at 23:58
That is fullscreen apps, and I hear it is broken for multiple monitors. – Chas. Owens Jul 24 '11 at 0:28
“zoom” is the traditional name for the green button in the “traffic lights” top left of each window :) – Agos Jul 24 '11 at 9:54
I think you'll change your mind once you plug in a second monitor :( – Nick Bedford Jul 27 '11 at 22:46

L opens the Downloads window in Finder

In Snow Leopard, this key combination was recognised by Safari.

In Lion

Before Lion, I often used the orderly and sizeable downloads window of Safari as a tool for organisation, so the disorderly popover in Lion was a shock to the system. I particularly hate the disorder. Also I often thought to myself … "One day, I'll accidentally click Clear … that button's far too near the scroll bar.".

When eventually that accident occurred I cursed, loudly. It was comparable to losing a list of to-dos.

I no longer hate the popover in Safari, but I haven't learnt to love Finder (it fails to find most folders that I seek), so I'm in limbo, somewhat disorganised.

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Mail now displays custom header


Mail->Preferences->Viewing->Show Header Detail->Custom

enter image description here

you can specify custom headers that will be presented to you above the mails: enter image description here

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Authentication dialogs shake when you enter your password incorrectly

The "shaking head" animation that has long been used in OS X's login screen to indicate an incorrect password has been added to the authentication dialogs present throughout the OS. I love this! It's so clever and you immediately "get" what it means.

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Safari and background tabs

Safari appears to aggressively manage its memory footprint by unloading unused pages then reloading them as needed, much like Safari in iOS.

You can see this in action if you open up a large number of tabs and then leave some of them alone and unviewed for a while. When you return to a tab that hasn't been viewed in a long time, Safari will quickly reload it.

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Do you know if this can be turned off (maybe on a session to session basis)? Sometimes one may not want to have pages to reload silently. – Debilski Jul 25 '11 at 22:00
Yes, I hate this so much. I'm a programmer with so many open tabs while Eclipse is eating my RAM :( – Enrico Susatyo Jul 26 '11 at 13:25
This sounds terribly dangerous. You can't just reload some pages. – Chas. Owens Jul 27 '11 at 18:52
i hate this tab-reloading. Any way disable it? – jm666 Jul 28 '11 at 23:13
It seems to only be doing it for pages that have their cache preferences set correctly. So it won't do it if there is a web form that is half filled out, or if a page is set to non-caching. – X-Istence Jul 31 '11 at 21:34

Mission Control + Spaces

You can use Mission Control to easily drag and drop apps from one Space to another.

enter image description here enter image description here

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it used to be easier -- in snow leopard, you could drag from a different space to the current one, now you have to switch to the other space and drag it to the one you want :( – Noah Aug 8 '11 at 2:00
dang. (i was one of those people who didn't know about spaces before) – gary Aug 8 '11 at 2:43
Yeah... this is definitely a thumbs down when compared to the way Spaces worked. – TheWellington Sep 13 '11 at 16:29
@Noah: hold option and click the space you want - it'll slide that space into view without activating it. Then you can move windows between spaces without having to jump in and out of Mission Control every time you switch spaces. – daGUY May 16 '12 at 15:46
@daGUY: cool, that at least makes it less annoying. – Noah May 17 '12 at 1:27

protected by Community Aug 8 '11 at 18:17

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